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ENGL 367: British Drama Colonial Encounters: Parents of Cloud 9: Looking at Caryl Churchill’s Play Through Foucault’s Repressive Hypothesis by Mackenzie Rae Vanacore


In Caryl Churchill’s Cloud 9, Act I is set in Victorian Africa, representing the sexual repression of Victorian society. When Betty confides in her husband about her sexual desires, Clive responds with a facist ideological mindset, referring to Betty’s sexuality as dark and wrong. Betty’s repression is caused by prejudice notions presented by Clive. According to Michel Foucault, a French historian and philosopher, Victorian society strived for discourse in sex which led to his theory he calls ‘the repressive hypothesis’. Betty is a representation of the desired discourse the repressive hypothesis introduced, attempting to achieve sexual expression through discussion. However, Act II presents Lin, a single mother from the 1970s who demonstrates sexual awareness and positive influence on Victoria, Betty’s daughter. The contrast from Act I and Act II is not due to discourse but has been opened thanks to revolutions in science and politics.

The Play

Primary Resource

[Source: “The History of Sexuality: Volume 1: Popular Penguins”. Penguin Books New Zealand.]

As a primary resource, The History of Sexuality creates snapshot of sexuality from the Victorian Era through the twentieth century. Michel Foucault discusses how, over the course of centuries, sexuality has always been in relation to the repressive hypothesis. Foucault’s theory argues that even though the discussion of sex was tense in the Victorian Era, it was still desired as part of discourse within bourgeois society. Even though this topic was meant to be discussed with married heteronormative couples, Foucault mentions that Victorians formed their desired discourse through discussion about psychiatry or sex work. Studying Cloud 9 through Foucault’s repressive hypothesis helps show a representation of Betty’s desire for sex and the acceptence of sexual expression thanks to the impact of science and politics within the twentieth century.

Foucault, M. The History of Sexualtiy. Volume 1: An Introduction. Translated by Robert Hurley. Random House. 1978. Retrieved from: FoucaultHistorySex.pdf


  1. Escoffier, J. 2004. “The Sexual Revolution, 1960-1980”. glbtq, Inc. Retrieved from:

This article was written for glbtq Encyclopedia, an online archive for figures, events, and movements throughout history of the LGBTQA+ community. In this article, Escoffier discusses the political revolutions of the twentieth century and how sexual repression has resulted into authoritarian parenting behaviors.

  1. Reich, W. Mass Psychology of Fascism. 4th Ed. Internet Archive. 1970. Retrieved from:

Reich describes fascism as a vampire that leeches onto the body of the living, impulsed to murder when love calls for fullfilment. Reich goes on to explain that “life-impulse cannot ‘seize power violently,’ for it would not know what to do with power” (Reich). In regards to the play by Churchill, these “life-impulses” representing sexuality and freedom of expression while Clive is the fascism attempting to seize power through violence–or, in this case, repressive restrictions–that results into authoritarian behaviors projected onto his wife, Betty.

  1. James Aston Lake. Cloud 9. YouTube. December 26, 2012. 22:29.

In a class performance posted on YouTube by James Aston Lake, there is a specific moment with Betty and her mother from the timestapes 11:27-12:04 that highlight the expectations of females during the Victorian Era. Betty’s mother congratulates Betty on her excellent marriage and how she would make a great hostess, just as Clive had implied that Betty’s role is to only be a wife, molding Betty into a position of domesticity and nothing else.

The Writer

Mackenzie is an INFJ and an English major with a concentration in Creative Writing. She often finds herself crying from the beauty of glitter and the creation of pizza. When she isn’t blogging or falling in love with wholesome book characters, you can find her staring into the abyss (which generally just means she’s daydreaming). You may contact her at for more info.

“Facism” defined by Wilhelm Reich

According to Freudian theorist, Wilhelm Reich, fascism is not a reactionary movement but a representation of an amalgam between reactionary ideas rebellious emotions. In Reich’s text, Mass Psychology of fascism, Reich defines facsim as the sum total of irrationality in the average human, saying that fascists are individuals who hold prejudiced ideas (Reich). Clive is a facist character whose prejudice notions are the cause of Betty’s repression.

Additional Sources

[Source: “Grapefruit” photo by Charles on Unsplash:]

Cook, Hera. “The English Sexual Revolution: Technology and Social Change.” History Workshop Journal, no. 59, 2005. JSTOR,